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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 02/20/13

Guests: John Brabender

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Thank you very much. And thanks to you at home for staying with us this hour. I like to think of this show as a wholesome way to spend an hour. A show you can watch with your kids if they`re not in bed by now. Most of the time, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW, I think it`s safe to say, is safe family viewing. That said, if you are watching with the kids right now, you might consider asking them to run to the kitchen to grab a snack for a sec, or maybe cover their eyes and ears. This won`t take long but we`ve got to get out of the way. Because the most recent details to emerge out of the implosion of the fake grassroots Tea Party group FreedomWorks I think may possibly be rated R. David Corn of "Mother Jones" magazine has been getting all the details on that implosion at FreedomWorks. And he reported most recently on a FreedomWorks promotional video which the group apparently planned to show to thousands of their supporters at a big conference called Free PAC. Now, I`m not going to read the words that are on your screen right now that describe what was in that video. You can read it for yourself while you cover the eyes of your child. This is what Adam Brandon, the vice president executive president of FreedomWorks asked two female interns to do with their time interning for FreedomWorks. And while acting out that particular instruct from their boss at work, quote, "one intern wore a Hillary Clinton mask, the other wore a giant panda suit, which FreedomWorks had used at protests to denounce progresses as panderers. What they were acting out was not pandering but rather something else." OK. You can now uncover your children`s eyes. But this is just the latest detail in the ongoing drama that is the slow unraveling over FreedomWorks. It is also the detail of how the former chairman of the group, Dick Armey, stormed into the group`s office with a man with a gun when he was reportedly trying to seize control of the group away from the group`s president, Matt Kibbe. There was also Dick Armey accusing Matt Kibbe of using FreedomWorks` staff and resources to research and write his own book while all the proceeds of the book went to him. There was Dick Armey`s letter resigning of chairman of FreedomWorks, demanding that the group stop using his name and likeness and his book and demanding specifically that FreedomWorks deliver his official Dick Armey portrait to his goat farm in Texas. And then, after all of that, there was the panda suit thing with the interns. Ew. Over at the other name brand Tea Party group that everybody always confuses with FreedomWorks, but actually they are two different things, things over at the Koch brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity, things there are maybe less salacious, but apparently are no better. The group has reportedly fired its chief operating officer, its COO, in what is described as an acrimonious departure. They have also fired fundraisers and most of the large field staff. They have also fired the president of their youth outfit which is called Generation Opportunity. The Koch brothers are also postponing their twice yearly big donors confabs where they regularly get seven-figure checks from conservative zillionaires to support their work. The Koch brothers` effort to separate from their money, the richest Republican donors in the country. The Koch brothers` efforts to do that on a grand scale when they meet twice yearly have been broadly seen as the biggest rival to Karl Rove in trying to corner that particular business. But the Koch brothers now apparently losing their nerve, or at least slowing down for now. It doesn`t seem to have redounded to Mr. Rove`s benefit. He is also having a hard time right now. At the start of this month, "The New York Times" broke the story of Karl Rove`s let`s find electable Republicans Conservative Victory Project that is supposed to recruit establishment-backed Republican candidates who might have mass appeal, candidates who wouldn`t lose winnable seats by virtue of their own evident kookiness. The Karl Rove idea is to keep these kinds of far right Tea Party-backed candidates from getting into a general election on the Republican ticket, only to realize that they are way too extreme for the electorate at large. But while this effort from Mr. Rove might have made a lot of practical sense on its face, it has gone over very, very poorly with the Republicans who are actually in the Republican Party. Jim DeMint`s former PAC calls it yet another example of the Republican establishment`s hostility toward its base. At "RedState", the editor`s take was, quote, I dare say any candidate who gets this group`s support should be targeted for destruction by the conservative movement. And over at panda sex FreedomWorks, they got creative in their response. "The Empire is striking back. An Orwellian-named `Conservative Victory Projects` is created with the sole operating mission of blocking the efforts of fiscally conservative activists across this country. Maybe with the benefit of a couple week`s time, though, this furor has died down. Maybe Republicans are not quite so angry with their fellow Republican Karl Rove after all? Au contraire mon frere. This is an email the Tea Party Patriot sent out to their membership yesterday. It features, yes, a photo of Karl Rove PhotoShopped to look like a Nazi. Not a cartoon Nazi or a metaphorical Nazi. They actually PhotoShopped his face on to one of a real Nazi. "We are celebrating the fourth anniversary of the Tea Party movement by standing up to Karl Rove." Five hours after the Tea Party patriots sent out that picture of Karl Rove as a Nazi, the group said of course they didn`t mean to send out a picture of Karl Rove dressed as a Nazi, and it was all just a big misunderstanding. Apologies. But the intraparty fighting on the right is starting to feel like it`s more typically hyperbolic and entertaining. It is starting to feel like it might be important, if only it seems like it is not ebbing. It is not going away over time. It seems to be getting worse, and because it is starting to crawl out of the danker right-wing corners of direct mail and the Internet to start showing itself under the bright lights of the morning network news shows. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: I was very specifically saying that in a newsletter people can get at, that the idea Karl Rove has of creating some super PAC to go out and basically pick Republican Senate nominees, for example, is a terrible idea. We don`t want to become a party in which a handful of political bosses gather up money from billionaires in order to destroy the candidates they don`t like. And that`s what we`re talking about. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: And that is a little bit rich coming from the guy whose presidential candidacy was all financed by his own personal billionaire Sheldon Adelson. But still, Mr. Gingrich, of course, he doesn`t really stand for anybody other than himself. He doesn`t speak for any institutions or represent any institutions. But Mr. Gingrich, and I think this is instructive, does seem to recognize the milieu in which he is operating. He does seem to recognize that there is nobody rising to the fore. He seems to be taking advantage of the chaos on the right right now by trying to revivify a little bit of Newt Incorporated, right? The mention of Gingrich Productions Web site there where you can get his newsletter when he was on CBS earlier this week. Also, the CPAC program this year is lettered with exclusive showings of various Newt Gingrich and Callista Gingrich film productions available online for just $19.99. So the nation`s conservatives and Republicans may be at each other`s throats, and it`s not going away. But Newt Gingrich is making hay while the sun shines for him, just $19.99. When Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman and Rick Perry and everybody else lost in the Republican primaries this past year to Mitt Romney, Mr. Romney by winning the primaries became the leader of the Republican Party. When Mr. Romney then lost the general election to President Obama and lost badly, and Republicans lost in the House and the Senate too, nobody thought that Mitt Romney was the head of the Republican Party anymore. But then who was? That was 3 1/2 months ago now. Who is the head of the Republican Party now? Who is in contention to even be taken seriously for that role? Who is in a position to be listened to with respect by other conservatives and Republicans when he or she speaks from that side of the aisle right now? I mean, consider the landscape of what is going on right now. Republicans still decided this year that they would split their State of the Union response between the official Republican response and the Tea Party Republican response. Both even just in terms of the staging were a little bit of a mess. What are you looking at, Rand Paul? Beyond Marco Rubio and Rand Paul, the other new Tea Party Republican Senator Ted Cruz is busy being pilloried by John McCain and other members of his own party for the way he has comported himself in his first few days in the senate. Republicans, Republicans are telling reporters that Ted Cruz is, quote, "Jim DeMint without the charm." The insult here being that Jim DeMint was never known for having any charm. Two years ahead of time, there is always talk that the top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell may not just face a general election challenge from Ashley Judd, he may face a Tea Party challenge from his own party, a named challenger already raising his profile in the state of Kentucky against Mitch McConnell. The right wing pundits` fear right now is up in arms about how candidates are handling their fight against President Obama. They`re not on the Republican side on this. The FOX News Channel has gotten rid of Sarah Palin and Dick Morris. They have hired Scott Brown and Herman Cain and Dennis Kucinich. Hmm. The big headline out of the Republican Governors Conference this year was Louisiana Republican Governor Bobby Jindal insisting that Republicans must stop being, quote, "the stupid party." And the line was not meant as a joke. We`re now a week away from the filing deadline in the first U.S. Senate race that will take place after the presidential election, the race to fill John Kerry`s open seat in Massachusetts. We are a week out from the filing deadline, and it is not at all clear if any Republican vying for that seat will even collect enough signatures in Massachusetts to qualify to be on the ballot. In the first governor`s race to take place after the presidential election, which is in Virginia, the Democratic candidate and the Republican candidate are locked in a dead heat, thanks to a second dissident Republican candidate who is splitting the center right vote with the other Republican candidate. Elsewhere in Republican politics, the first ever filibuster to stop a cabinet nominee in U.S. history turns out to be based in part on Republican senators believing a satirical joke about something called "Friends of Hamas". They thought something called "Friends of Hamas" was a real thing when somebody joked about it, and that contributed to their history-making filibuster of a cabinet nominee for the first time in our nation`s history. `Friends of Hamas" is not a real thing but they didn`t know it was a joke. The Senate majority leader, the aforementioned Mitch McConnell, he fell for a different sat fire when he apparently believed an "Onion"-like spoof article claimed that Guantanamo Bay prisoners were being given benefits under the post-9/11 G.I. Bill. He believed that. Inquired as to what might be going on there. My inquiry is what`s going on with the Republican Party right now. I mean, who is in charge? Who is going to or who is trying to right this ship? This is going on for a long time now. And the thing that I think is newsworthy right now is that it seems to be getting worse and not better over time. We learned today that the last guy to be in charge in the Republican Party, Mitt Romney, has accepted an invitation to speak at CPAC this year. Last year, CPAC is where Mitt Romney christened himself severely conservative. How is Mitt Romney going to go over with the party faithful this year? If he tried to give the exact same severely conservative speech this year, how do you think it would be greeted? It is not uncommon for the losing party to go through a round of soul-searching after a bad election cycle. Nobody expected the Republicans to spring back to their feet immediately after losing the White House by 3 million votes, after losing the House by a million votes, after losing two additional seats on the Senate. Nobody expected them to be on fire right now. But now it is less that they are on fire that they are engulfed in flames, and they are the ones who have lit them. How long does this go on for? Who ultimately is going to win the scorched-earth fights that are happening right now on the right? And if in fact it is going to take us as a country a long time for the Republicans to figure this out, who benefits in the meantime while they`re figuring it out? Joining us now is John Brabender. He`s a former chief adviser to the Rick Santorum presidential campaign. Mr. Brabender, it`s really nice for you being here tonight. Thanks for being here. JOHN BRABENDER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Thank you. And yes, I am in charge. You are ask who is taking over the -- so I appreciate you having me on, so I could make that proclamation tonight. MADDOW: It`s an odd choice to make that on prime time MSNBC, but more power to you for taking the reins this way. BRABENDER: You know, I got to tell you. This is the honest to God truth. Whenever I`m on your show, which isn`t frequently, but whenever I`m on your show, the next day I hear from conservative friends saying, oh, I saw you on RACHEL MADDOW last night, which I can imagine is why were you watching it? So, I just want you look the next Nielsen ratings or whenever you have, I think you probably have more conservatives. Why? I`ll let you be the judge of that. MADDOW: I always take great comfort in the well-informed nature of my hate mail when people can quote what they don`t like that I`m saying for the exact same reason. Well, let me ask you, because we do sort of come from different ideological places. But you have just been through this in terms of your role in the primaries and all of the stuff, and everybody expects the party to have a little soul-searching moment after going through something they have just been through the last couple of years. But does this seem to you that this is unusually chaotic, and it`s going on for an unusually long period of time? I don`t see any resolution on the horizon. BRABENDER: Well, I would say first of all, I think it`s embarrassing, because, you know, you do go through sort of a mourning period. But, you know, it`s been over two months and it`s time for everybody to grow up and put an end to it. Second of all, actually pointing fingers every day at somebody else saying here is why we lost and looking internally I think is a mistake. There is nothing productive that comes after that. And number three is everybody keeps talking about that we`ve got to rebrand the party, or it`s almost like they think we need this exorcism. And the truth of the matter is we do have to realize we have a problem. We do have to make significant changes. But it`s not where we have to change all of the players and everything like that. It`s to understand that where we have lost our way is the perception of our party is, number one, we fight for the rich more than we fight for anybody else. Number two, we fight for the big corporations. And number three, we`re obstructionists to everything. And what we have lost our way is fighting for hardworking middle class, middle income Americans. And we`ve got to get back to where they believe we understand their life. We`re trying to make it so they can reach the American dream, and we`re going to fight for them every day. MADDOW: The most interesting -- at least in the outside, the most interesting new emerging factor in Republican politics after Bush and Cheney I think was the rise of the Tea Party movement, which wasn`t symbolized by any one particular leader. A lot of people sort of tried to claim that mantle, but it was a movement. It wasn`t something that was led by one visionary person. I wonder if we`re sort of wrong-headed in looking for an individual leader to rise up in the Republican Party and unify everybody, if we should be looking for more of a movement to rise up, or some sort of agreement on principles like you`re describing. BRABENDER: You`re 100 percent right, because everybody keeps saying who is going to be this person who emerges. First of all, that takes time. You have to earn that. You`re not going to be anointed. That`s number one. Number two, we have to get back to saying what are our beliefs in this party, and let`s make sure that they`re not just on the social spectrum, which we believe is important. But they`re also about how do they touch everyday lives, and we understand what people are going to bed and worrying about. For example, we always talk in terms of the debt in the trillions spending and all the $16 trillion debt, all that stuff. Why isn`t anybody saying hey, who is fighting for these kids that are going to inherit this credit card mess? You know, what are we the party that is saying that and screaming that every day and fighting as hard for them as we are for wealthy individuals who need tax breaks? And I think that`s a mistake, and we`ve got to change that. MADDOW: John Brabender, former chief adviser to the Rick Santorum presidential campaign. Every time I have talked to you I have both learned something and really enjoyed the conversation. I`m really glad that you`re willing to be here. Thanks, John. BRABENDER: Well, thank you for having me. MADDOW: Thanks. Looking forward to having you back, even if I have to twist your arm. All right. BRABENDER: Take care. MADDOW: Meanwhile, it take turns out that the latest trip to the utter national disaster we`re on, it turns out the latest trip to the brink could be solved in five minutes, for real, by a super non-extraordinary thing that would alleviate the crisis entirely. Super easy. That`s ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: No American state, not even the state of Mississippi is allowed to just ban abortion. Abortion is a federally constitutionally protected right. But if you live in the great state of Mississippi right now, you may be in the midst of your final weeks where legal abortion in your state is a real thing -- a right that exists in practical terms and not just on paper. There is only one clinic left in the entire state that does abortions, and last year, Republicans in Mississippi figured out how to regulate that abortion clinic right out of existence. They passed a new regulation targeting the only abortion provider in the state, regulations they knew the clinic could not meet. They couldn`t ban abortion in the state overtly, but they knew that would be the effect of these new regulations. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) GOV. PHIL BRYANT (R), MISSISSIPPI: We`re going toe continue to try to work to end abortion in Mississippi. And this is an historic day to begin that process. LT. GOV. TATE REEVES (R), MISSISSIPPI: That`s a bill that gives us a great opportunity to do -- to accomplish what our goal needs to be. Our goal needs to be to end all abortions in Mississippi. I believe the admitting privileges bill gives us the best chance to do that. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My goal enforces to shut it down. STATE REP. BUBBA CARPENTER (R), MISSISSIPPI: We have literally stopped abortion in the state of Mississippi. The only -- (APPLAUSE) Three blocks from the capitol sits the only abortion clinic the state of Mississippi. A bill was drafted that said if you would perform an abortion in the state of Mississippi, you must be a certified OB/GYN and must have admitting privileges to a hospital. Anybody here in the medical field knows how hard it is to get admitting privileges to a hospital. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: They do know how hard it is to get admitting privileges to a hospital, especially if you`re an abortion provider. A few hospitals in Mississippi would not even allow the doctors from the state`s only clinic to apply for admitting privileges. Hospitals that did agree to accept the applications cited their policies about abortion in denying admitting privileges to those doctors. That one remaining clinic in Mississippi is fighting this TRAP law in court, but so far it has not gotten the kind of ruling it will need if it`s going to stay open. If a federal judge does not intervene soon, the state government in Mississippi will shut down the last clinic in that state. They have already started the process to do so. The state could revoke the clinic`s license as soon as next month. And wouldn`t you know it, just as the admitting privileges TRAP law looks like it might be working to simply make abortion in Mississippi, just as it is poised to make abortion simply not available in that state, Republicans in another state with just one abortion clinic left are pushing the same thing, a TRAP law with the exact same mechanism. And as in Mississippi, absent intervention from the courts, the state of North Dakota will likely shut down its only abortion providing clinic if this law takes its course. That Mississippi-style TRAP law has already passed the North Dakota Senate. It is seen as likely to pass the North Dakota House and to be signed into law by North Dakota`s Republican governor. And that is not the end of the movement to regulate abortion clinics out of existence in America. This week a new TRAP law measure passed through the Republican-controlled House in Alabama. It`s now headed to the Alabama Senate. The new rules targeting abortion clinics in the state come with a bunch of new building codes that would force most clinics to do extensive renovations that they may not be able to afford. And doctors who perform abortions would suddenly be required to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. Now, abortion clinics in Alabama are already required to at least contract with a doctor who has admitting privileges. So, each clinic in the state already has a relationship with a doctor who has hospital admitting privileges. But now says the legislature`s anti-abortion Republican majority, now that will no longer be enough. Now, the specific doctor who provides the abortion has to be the doctor who has admitting privileges locally. One Democrat opposed to the new TRAP law pointed out that as we just saw happen in Mississippi, many hospitals would likely refuse to grant admitting privileges to doctors who do abortions based on the fact that they do abortions. That Mississippi Democrat -- excuse me, that Alabama Democrat proposed an amendment to prohibit hospitals from denying abortion doctors admitting privileges based solely on the fact that they do abortions. That amendment was voted down 29-64. The sponsor of that amendment telling the local paper, quote, "I think Republicans` vote on this amendment showed the real intent of the bill." In other words, if Alabama Republicans really thought it was important for specific doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at local hospitals, they would have passed a bill that made that possible. But that is not what they care about. That is not the point of the bill. The point of the bill is to ban abortion. The point of the bill is to require abortion providers to do something that they will not be able to do. It is a TRAP, designed to shut down abortion clinics. Because the state`s anti-abortion legislature cannot make it directly so that abortion is illegal in the state of Alabama, they are trying to make it so that abortion is not available in Alabama. The practical effect on your rights if you live in Alabama is the same. This is now officially a trend in the state-sponsored anti-abortion movement in America. And if that federal judge does not intervene in Mississippi and stop the de facto abortion ban from taking hold in that state -- well, if you`re an anti-abortion Republican state legislator, what works in Mississippi might work for you, too. It`s a good time to pay close attention. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: In October 1962, there was a standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union. The U.S. had spied on Cuba, which was an ally of the Soviet Union, and had found that the Soviets had put nuclear missile sites there. In October 22nd of that year, 1962, President Kennedy informed the nation of his plan to create a blockade of U.S. ships around Cuba to present more supplies for those missile sights from entering that country. The soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, was none too happy about this and was not willing to give in to President Kennedy`s demands to end the missile program in Cuba. So in 1962, the world waited to see what would happen. This is remembered as the Cuban missile crisis for a reason -- it was a real crisis. We were on the brink of a nuclear war between two not just nuclear-armed countries, but two heavily nuclear-armed countries. The two greatest powers in the world at each other`s throats, the stakes could not have been higher. The two adversaries could not have been more opposed in every knowable way. How was this going to end? And, then, luckily it did end. A few days later, Kennedy and Khrushchev struck a deal to end it. Both leaders realized that enough was enough. High stakes apocalyptic danger, adversaries across purposes, it was not funny. It was drama. It was frankly, trauma. Flash forward 50 years to Washington, D.C. today, and our contemporary version of what we call a crisis where the opposing parties live in the same neighborhoods. They have sworn loyalty to the same country. They sometimes even play golf together. And the stakes and consequences in the crisis, the ticking clock, the deadline, the whole thing is self-imposed and voluntary. Nobody spied on anyone or portrayed anyone to set off this crisis. They just agreed ahead of time that we would have a crisis around now. It is as stupid as it is simple. It is totally made up and self-inflicted. And the solution it turns out is the easiest thing in the world, which of course means Washington thinks it`s impossible. That`s ahead with Ezra Klein. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: November 2010, Republicans win control of the House of Representatives. They all get sworn in January 2011. And within just a few months in the spring of that year, congressional Republicans are threatening to shut down the government. At first the common wisdom was they`ll never go through with this. And then it was I can`t believe they`re going through with this. And then with everybody in full crisis mode, compromise was finally reached with just one hour to spare before the shutdown. That was March of 2011. Having barely caught its breath, the government then went through another totally on purpose self-inflicted crisis in July of that year when congressional Republicans threatened to not raise the debt ceiling, threatening to not pay the bills the government has already accrued. The country and the world economy again on the brink -- neat. And then, with just h before that self-imposed economic doomsday for us and the planet, the president announces that a deal has been struck. It was close and unpleasant, and it was all on purpose. That was July. By September, same year, another threatened government shutdown. This time it was the senate that had to find its way back from the edge of catastrophe, but they did it with something like 90 minutes to spare. Then, this past December, let`s all go back to the brink. Congressional Republicans threatening an avalanche of tax hikes and other recession-inducing budget cuts. It`s the fiscal cliff, look out! Congressional Republicans blew right past the New Year`s Eve deadline and then after the sky was supposed to have fallen, a deal was made shortly thereafter to retroactively avert said disaster. Remember all that? Well, here we are again, back at the brink again. Do brinks wear out if you use them too much? For the seventh time since winning the majority congressional Republicans are holding the government sort of hostage. Tonight, we are nine days away from another self-imposed man made crisis in Washington. This one they call the sequester, which is a word I have diligently avoided until now because it makes me lisp. We are nine days away from slashing the budget across the board was Republicans and Democrats both agreed that that should happen, there should be that threat if they couldn`t agree on how to lower the deficit by now. Everybody agrees that doing this will throw a huge wrench into the gears of the economy. It may throw us back into recession. But the agreed upon economy-smashing crisis nine days away is not a problem that is going to happen on its own. It`s a solvable problem. It`s a man-made problem and has a man-made solution. It`s solvable because everybody agrees on one thing. Everyone in Washington agrees that this is a stupid idea, this sequester, like really stupid, like wearing a hat made of meat into a lion cage stupid. Like Googling Santorum while your grandma looks over your shoulder stupid. It is stupid and everybody knows it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Democrats, Republicans, business leaders and economists, they have already said that these cuts known here in Washington as sequestration are a bad idea. SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: If the looming sequester strikes, 70,000 young children would be kicked off Head Start, 10,000 teacher jobs will be at risk. REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Let me make clear I don`t like the sequester. SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I think we should in bipartisan fashion stop sequestration before, in the words of the secretary of defense, destroys the Pentagon. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: Everybody hates this thing. But in addition to hating this thing and agreeing that it is a bad idea, it would be very bad for the country and we shouldn`t do it, they also all agree that it`s the other guy`s fault. President Obama held a press conference this week in which he said it was the Republicans who are holding the country hostage. Meanwhile, Republicans have tried to make this a household word, Obamaquester. See the hashtag there? Try and use that in a sentence. Republicans led by John Boehner really wanted to lay the sequester at the feet of the president, the Obamaquester, they want you to call it. It might have worked. Maybe it would have worked if it were true. "The Daily Beast" uncovered this PowerPoint slide from a year and a half ago, Speaker Boehner`s office put it together, using it to try to sell other Republicans on the sequester deal. This PowerPoint presentation boasting about all the ways that sequestration was good for Republicans, and how they, Republicans should vote for it because there was a lot to like, because it look, sets up a new sequestration process to cut spending across the board. We like that. Vote for that. Maybe we should call it the Boehnerquester, the sequester of the House? Who cares? Maybe we should call it the P-90x quester. Because at the same time Boehner was giving his PowerPoint presentation telling Republicans they had to go along with this because the sequester was an asset, Paul Ryan was bragging to FOX News that this was a win for Republicans and conservatives. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: What conservatives like me have been fighting for for years are statutory caps on spending. Legal caps in the law that says government agencies cannot spend over a set amount of money. And if they breach that amount across the board, sequester comes in to cut that spending and you can`t turn that off without a super majority vote. We got that in law. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: We got that in law. We`ve been fighting for that. Fast forward to now, and Paul Ryan is thinking the opposite. Now he is saying he doesn`t like the idea. And it`s the president`s problem, the president`s own making. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RYAN: It`s the president who first proposed the sequester. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Everybody hates this upcoming made-up crisis, which is good, because there is a seriously simple solution to this universally reviled, universally acknowledged as dumb thing. We could not do it. Crazy, right? Congress has the ability to just not do it. Just turn the darn thing off. It`s very simple. And it is one very clear thought that is missing from this debate. It is the elephant/donkey in the room. Am I missing something here? If we all think it would be bad for the country, why don`t we not do it? There is one person who I think can explain to us why this is not happening already. His name is Ezra Klein, and he joins us next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: Are you willing to see a bunch of first responders lose their job because you want to protect some special interest tax loophole? Are you willing to have teachers laid off or kids not have access to Head Start? Or deeper cuts in student loan programs, just because you want to protect a special tax interest loophole that the vast majority of Americans don`t benefit from. That`s the choice. That`s the question. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Joining us now is Ezra Klein, columnist for the "Washington Post" and "Bloomberg News", and our MSNBC policy analyst. Ezra, it`s great to have you here. Thanks for being here. EZRA KLEIN, WASHINGTON POST: Good evening. MADDOW: If everybody agrees that the cuts that are to go into effect next Friday, the sequester, if everybody agrees that they`re bad for the country and they don`t want them, does Congress have the option to just not do them, to just repeal this stupid thing? KLEIN: Washington -- Congress does have that option. What Congress giveth the country for no good reason, it can taketh away for a very good reason. At the moment they`re not doing that, because in the weird calculus of the sequester, they created a thing so terrible that we would never let it happen, and thus we would come to some bigger deal they would like better. We didn`t come to that bigger deal, and so, we now need to let the thing that we would never let happen now happen. It doesn`t make a lot of sense, but it appears to make a kind of twisted sense that is appealing to House Republicans. MADDOW: Let`s say they did not do the thing that everybody says would be a bad thing to do. Let`s say they did repeal the sequester and not go through with it. Is there anything about the process of doing that that would then preclude the two sides from having the big debate for the bigger deal that they want to have thereafter? KLEIN: Nothing. There is nothing -- the Congress can come to a big deal at any time they would like. If you want to know, the only -- the really counterintuitive bang shot argument that relies on Congress being even more horrible than people I think even recognize for the sequester is if they didn`t have this bad thing to use to leverage, to make the country sweat and worry, they would go on to possibly shutting down the government next month, or, or they could wait a couple of months and breach the debt ceiling, both which would probably be significantly worse than using the sequester. But they could of course choose to do none of them. They could choose to not destroy the economy for no particular reason. They could decide not to have terrible cuts that don`t have a purpose behind them that honestly achieve nobody`s goals, including those of deficit hawks. But as of yet, they have not come to that solution because it would require climbing down from sort of trees they have all scurried up. MADDOW: In terms of brinksmanship fatigue, which I think is a real thing, just as individual Americans are watching what is going on in Washington, it is remarkable to see the number of brinks that we have been pushed to in the last couple of years when Washington apparently decided this was the only thing to get anything done. When you look at the record, both of the last couple of years and more broadly, do row think there is a case to be made that brinksmanship works? That this is a way to get stuff done that we otherwise wouldn`t do, or should we make a case based on American history that we can legislate through normal means and still have real debates? KLEIN: No, I think this is really important point to make. This is not a -- none of this is a lesson that brinksmanship works. It is a lesson that not compromising doesn`t work if you want to get things done under a divided government. There is nothing stopping the U.S. government, Congress, and the president from coming to a compromise. All that Republicans would need to do is accept a certain number of tax expenditure cuts which they already said they would accept in tax reform in that deal. They haven`t done that because they don`t want to compromise. And so, they haven`t gotten their goals done. Nothing here is required for a compromise. Only compromise is, and we haven`t seen it yet. MADDOW: It`s amazing. It`s unbelievably amazing. It is confrontation for the sake of stylistic confrontation with nothing to show for it over and over and over again and never mind the consequences. It makes me crazy. Ezra Klein, columnist for "The Washington Post" and "Bloomberg News", MSNBC policy analyst and the only person in America I can stand to listen to talking about the sequester -- Ezra, thank you. KLEIN: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: Appreciate it. All right. We`ve got some hometown heroes coming up. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: New York City firefighter Peter Demontreux, August 2010, a four-story brownstone was on fire. Firefighter Peter Demontreux`s unit responded, there was heavy fire at the front door of the building and up the stairs to the upper floors. Peter Demontreux decided he would use the aerial ladder off the fire truck to get into the third floor of the house. The first civilian he found, he put on the ladder to get the civilian out of there. The second civilian he found trapped in the flames, deep inside the apartment. Then that floor suddenly exploded in flames, the whole floor engulfed, and what happened was what the New York City Fire Department calls one of the most dramatic rescues ever witnessed. With the entire floor engulfed in flames, and both the firefighter and victim on fire themselves, the firefighter, Peter Demontreux managed to get to the building, and get the victim on fire, while he was on fire, and get that victim who was also on fire unto that aerial ladder down to the truck. To save his own life, he simply dove out of the third floor window. Both men were badly burned, but survived. The subsequent testing on firefighter Demontreux`s equipment showed that the temperature that he had exposed to exceeded a thousand degrees. Officer Reeshemah Taylor of the Osceola County Corrections Department in Florida. June 2009, Officer Taylor discovers a prisoner at the Osceola County jail who has taken hostage another corrections officer, stolen the officer`s uniform and taken his gun. Upon discovering them, the prisoner puts that loaded semiautomatic handgun up to Officer Taylor`s head, point blank, with the gun against her head, Officer Taylor grabs the weapon with both hands, pushes the weapon aside, delivered what is apparently called a knee spike to man`s groin, sends him sprawling, she knocks the gun away. Although the prisoner was larger and stronger than her, she dropped on top of him, she used her legs to pin his lower body, to keep her away from the gun. With one hand she held him in a headlocked, with the other she keyed the portable radio to call in assistance. The hostage saved, the escape attempt stopped, Officer Taylor was uninjured and she stopped it all alone, facing a loaded, point-blank weapon. Firefighter Peter Demontreux and Corrections Officer Reeshemah Taylor were two of the 18 public safety officers who were awarded the Medal of Valor at the White House today, five them posthumously. The Medal of Valor was created in 2001 to honor public safety officers who exhibit exceptional courage, in an attempt to protect human life, regardless of their own personal safety. In his remarks at the ceremony today, Vice President Joe Biden tried to express the gratitude for the exceptional public servants. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What is it that pushes a man like Trooper Joshua Miller to think that the safety of a kidnapped 9-year-old child is more important than his own physical safety? To engage the kidnapper even after he`d been wounded, instead of trying to find cover or get treatment for his wounds. What is it? What is it that causes men like Deputy William Stiltner and Cameron Justice to answer the call, even when they`re at home and off duty? What pushes men like that to run in the hail of bullets, give their lives for their fellow deputies out of the line of fire? It`s harder to define these qualities. What makes you do what you do and just thankful that you do? You can`t explain it, but you know it when you see it. I see it in the shield over someone`s heart. I see it in the men and women who sit here before us today. You`re all a different breed. Thank God for you. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Washington today, honoring these outstanding public sector employees. Government workers. You hear that term used in the abstract thing all the time, right? Public sector workers. But it`s really not an abstract thing. I mean, seeing the specifics of their heroism today makes it possible to see this ones in a specific light, not in an abstract way. But here is another way of seeing them in the aggregate. Chart imitates life. This the size of government under President George H.W. Bush, under Poppy Bush during his time in office. The peak you see there, around `90s, when they hired people for the U.S. Census, which happens once a decade. But if you just ignore that peak, you can see the general trend there is up, more people employed in government jobs, more cops, more firefighters, more teachers, more customs officers, more people doing work for the government, for the public. This is the government workforce under President Clinton, he served two terms, so he was there for another census in 2000. That`s the peak you see there since the government has to hire a lot of temporary workers for the Census. But again, if you ignore the peak, the general trend in government employees, state, local and federal combined, is very clear, it`s up. OK. Now, here`s President George W. Bush, Bush the younger, same idea here. This chart shows what happened to the size of the government workforce under George W. Bush`s watch. Again, the trend is up, people working for we, the public. Now, here is the communist, the Marxist usurper, President Mao Obama, who has grown the government so huge, right? His time in office also included a census, so there is that temporary peak, but otherwise, you may not want to say this out right to your crazy uncle who watches FOX News, but you may just want to clip and save this and put it on your fridge for him to notice himself, but President Obama in his time in office has shrunk the government. Now, this is not necessarily a good thing. We need more people working in this country. We need more jobs in this country, and government jobs are real jobs. A police officer who gets laid off is just as unemployed as the factory worker who gets laid off. Each matters the same in the overall economy. This is not a matter of ideology. This is just a matter of counting, right? But the myth of President Obama growing government does not match the rhetoric. Now check this out. In the recession of 1981, under President Ronald Reagan, here is what we did as a country to cushion the blow, to try to ease the impact of the recession. This is just government jobs during the recession. We added government jobs. That helps to ease the impact of the recession and helps to get us out of recession faster. In the recession are 1990 under Poppy Bush, we again in that recession added government jobs, that again cushioned the fall and helped us out of the recession. In the recession in 2001 under the second President Bush, same deal, add more government jobs. You can see the pattern, right? Until this last time. Look, until the Great Recession, until the recession that President Obama inherited. And in the recession, government employment does not go up like we did in the previous recessions. Instead, government employment falls, like a rock rolled off a cliff, except for the little peak when it comes to the census. This recession has not been handled like the others and the recovery from it is harder than it would have been if we weren`t laying off all the teachers and snow plow drivers and cops and firefighters. Everybody understood that before this recession to get out of the recession, you hire more people, not less people. We have never tried to recover from a recession this way before. Not under Democrats and not under Republicans. This insistence this time from the Beltway, mostly from Republicans, but from Beltway common wisdom, too, the insistence this time on cutting instead of growing, it is as though we`ve been fighting with one hand tied behind our back, and one eye closed and our shoes untie, in trying to get recovery from this recession. We have never cut government jobs when we were trying to save the economy, until this time. And now that we are finally stumbling back from the depths of recession, we are still trying to cut government jobs. Look at this, more than 70,000 government workers have been canned just since the recovery began. Last month, when the rest of the economy, the private sector, continued to add jobs, the government sent 9,000 government workers home with a final paycheck -- good luck, officer, see you around. So chart imitates life. We lionize and celebrate the people who teach us our multiplication tables and fix our streets and keep us safe at night and rescue us from fires. We lionize and celebrate them justly as we should. And then in record numbers we can them, hurting them and hurting us as a country. Not every public sector worker is going to win the Medal of Valor like those 18 heroes did at the White House today. But there is reason to appreciate them, both in the heroic individual specific, and in the aggregate, for what they do for us every day. That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow night. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL". THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END